LONDON – On the final night of track at the London Games, the U.S. produced a triple medal haul.
In Saturday’s penultimate race, the U.S. women’s 4x400-meter relay team won gold so decisively that, for a while, looked like it might break a 24-year-old record.
DeeDee Trotter (wearing her usual face paint near her eyes) established an early lead then passed to Allyson Felix who expanded the gap, and by the time Francena McCorory got the baton, the U.S. was so far ahead (nearly three seconds) that the pressure was off. Sanya Richards-Ross anchored the team to triumph in a season’s best 3 minutes 16.87 seconds – just 1.7 seconds off the Soviet record set at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games. Russia, the silver-medalist, finished 3.36 seconds behind the U.S.
“These ladies made it too easy for me,” said Richards-Ross of her teammates. “On paper, I thought it would be much closer and I was looking forward to that.”
Trotter went a step further, saying she was not surprised by the team flirting with the record.
“I consider us to be the dream team of this discipline” Trotter said, then reminded reporters that “none of us were fresh.” She then rattled off how many heats, semis, and finals each member had, from relays to individual events. “We were on dead legs and to be able to run 3:16 – we were definitely gunning for the record and it’s on our checklist of things to do,” Trotter said.
For Felix, the relay gold was her third gold of these Games and she achieved the triple in a range of distances from 100m (in the 4x100 relay), to 200, to one full lap of the track in Saturday’s relay.
“I had trust in my conditioning,” she said, and attributed it to her coach, Bobby Kersee who insists that his athletes run a variety of intervals.
Moments after the U.S. women’s victory, Ryan Bailey, tried to run down Usain Bolt as the anchor of the U.S. men’s 4x100m team – but it was futile. Jamaica broke its own world record from the 2011 World Championships by two-tenths of a second to win in 36.84 seconds – even without its former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, who injured his groin in the 100m final six days ago.
“I remember racing through the zone, getting the stick and running for my life,” Bailey said, fully aware of Bolt’s presence in the adjacent lane.
The U.S. took silver in 37.04 seconds and reset the American record in a time identical to the old world record. Trell Kimmons led off to Justin Gatlin. Gatlin passed to Tyson Gay, and Bailey brought it home.
Perhaps the revelation of the night was high jump silver medalist Brigetta Barrett, a 21-year-old University of Arizona student who cleared a personal best 2.03 meters while Anna Chicherova of Russia produced the winning jump of 2.05m. Meanwhile, U.S. record holder and 2012 world indoor champion Chaunte Lowe failed to clear 2.00 and placed sixth.
“Overall, I think I had a great season; it just wasn’t great on this night,” Lowe explained.
When Barrett missed her first try at 2.03 meters, she said, “I kinda blacked out. I was very scared. People don’t really expect us to be afraid of a bar, but between steps seven and eight, you have to decide if you’re going to go for it.”
On her subsequent jump that yielded the silver, she said, “I just trusted myself.”
Barrett was especially pleased that her mother was in the crowd to share the moment. On June 30, the day of the women’s high jump final at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Brigetta learned that her mother had completed her last chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer that same day.
“She taught me how to fight,” Barrett said.
Now that Barrett is an Olympic medalist, she said jubilantly and thoughtfully, “When you start out, you want to be the future. When you are the future, you want to stay present. What I want to be is the present and the future.”
One of the most anticipated races of the night was the men’s 5000m. Galen Rupp was trying to become the first American to earn medals in the classic double: 5000m and 10,000m. He had already ended a 44-year U.S. medal drought one week earlier in the men’s 10,000, capturing silver behind his training partner Mo Farah who won gold for Great Britain. The U.S. also had two other men in the 5000 final, for the first time since 1932: Lopez Lomong and Bernard Lagat, a four-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medalist at 1500m (for Kenya). The race started slowly, and the U.S. gave chase, but in the end, the Oregon-based Farah became the seventh man in history to get the Olympic 5000-10,000 double in a winning time of 13:41.66. Lagat placed fourth (.63 seconds behind bronze medalist Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya) and said he’s not retiring at age 37 but London will mark his last Olympics. Rupp was seventh (13:45.04) and Lomong placed 10th (13:48.19)
Rupp said the 10,000m silver meant he had nothing to lose in the 5000. “I felt like I was playing with house money,” he said. “Physically, I was in great shape. I just didn’t have enough in me in the finish.”
Race walkers Maria Michta and John Nunn set personal bests to finish 29th place in the women’s 20km race walk (1:32:27) and 43rd place in the men’s 50km walk (4:03:28). Michta, a PhD candidate from New York was 7 minutes, 25 seconds behind the Russian winner, Elena Lashmanova, who set a world record in (1:25:02) in the 12.43-mile race. Nunn was 27 minutes 29 seconds behind the Russian gold medalist, Sergey Kirdyapkin, who covered the 31.07-mile course in an Olympic record time of 3:35:59.
Aimee Berg is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.